We all hold onto things. When we think of heroes holding things, we think of Katniss holding her bow, Luke Skywalker his lightsaber, Hermione her wand.
But that is not all these heroes ‘held’ onto. Katniss held onto her personal responsibility, Luke his doubt, and Hermione her books… to a fault. In order to become the heroes they were, each had to open their hands.
We all hold onto ideas and habits and tools all the time in relation to the world us and the world inside us. The idea of ‘open hands’ is important for all heroes… including you! Here are three reasons why.
Before becoming a hero, a person needs to open their hands and let go of that which is holding them back. Be it a self-conceived notion (‘I’m not good enough’), someone who is holding them back (‘You’ve never supported me and my passion’), a past activity (‘All this screen watching isn’t helping me’), or something physical (‘Time to get rid of this junk!’) – heroes first open their hands to let go, to empty themselves of the past habits or beliefs.
When your hands are full in a physical, mental or emotional way, you’ll be hard pressed to fill them up with what a hero needs.
All heroes (at some point) keep their hands open to that which is next – the teaching, the self-knowledge, the journey and adventure ahead. This is not an easy thing to do, by the way. A lot of time, the learning process is painful.
In the hero’s journey, most of these lessons come at the hand of a wise guide. Harry Potter had Professor Dumbledore (and Hermione quite often). Luke had Obi-wan and Yoda. Katniss had Hamish. All of these mentors helped to guide by asking the right (and tough) questions, reframe what was important, and getting the young budding hero to reach past what they previously thought possible.
In all of these cases, the heroes not only filled their minds and hearts with new knowledge, they also picked up tools to use in the pursuit of their mission.
In the stories, our heroes often pick up a weapon of some sort. While that happens in real-life, too, most heroes pick up other implements. William Wilberforce picked up a pen. So did Anne Frank. Einstein picked up a pencil and calculator and a train schedule. Mrs. Parks picked up her resolve and shared her voice.
But that is not all they do with open hands. Heroes, time and again, reach out to others.
A hero is not all about him or herself. Heroic action is always taken on behalf of others. This is when all heroes (including you!!) are at their most powerful. In fact, Karol Wojtyla suggested that “it is precisely when one becomes a gift for other that one most fully becomes oneself.” (You may recognize Cardinal Wojtyla by a different name.)
In all of our heroes’ quests, they are for a greater good than treasure or accolades for themselves. Frodo wanted to save his friends and return home to the Shire. Marie Curie wanted to discover something that would help millions. Mother Teresa gave (quite literally) the shoes from her feet to the needy, along with everything else.
It is in the moments when we truly serve others that we find our own contentment and our true measure. In order to serve, you’ve got to reach out first. And, if your hands are ‘full’ with other things, others will have a very hard time gaining a good grasp.
Challenging and Rewarding
Make no mistake, being a hero is no easy task. The term ‘hero’ is reserved for someone who truly goes above and beyond the call of being a human being, or even a ‘good’ one. (I mean ‘good’ in the oldest sense of the word.)
You have to get past the self-possession we all battle and literally put yourself on the line for others. That is what Dr. King did. Same with Mother Teresa. And Lincoln. And Mrs. Parks.
What are some things you want to let go? It’s hard to even know. Self-knowledge is actually pretty difficult because it requires us to stop fooling ourselves. But knowing ourselves, per Aristotle, is the beginning of all wisdom. This is where that sage, mentor, counselor comes in. They can see things in you that you cannot see for yourself. They can help you drop the things that are unimportant or harmful and fill your hands with what you need to reach out to those around you.
Young Hero, open your hands. They are going to be very useful – and needed – going forward.
Have a great weekend!